Unwrapping one candyman’s secret to really good chocolate, and making the world a better place.
by Marcy Harris
There are some who like chocolate, and then there are those of us who would melt away without it. While I certainly wouldn’t pass up any chocolate you put in my hand, really good bean-to-bar chocolate takes the experience to a whole new level, from my palate to my soul. If you’ve ever had Askinosie chocolate, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
One man raises the bar on chocolate.
After working as a trial lawyer for two decades and feeling exhausted in body and soul, Shawn Askinosie left his work at the bar to pursue his passion for chocolate making. He and his company do so by buying all of their amazingly good beans from farmers across the globe to bring back to their hometown of Springfield, Missouri, and then make them into incredibly good chocolate bars. The bars are crafted from 100% traceable, single-origin cocoa beans from four regions: San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador; Davao, Philippines; Cortes, Honduras; and Tenende, Tanzania. Askinosie mostly specializes in dark chocolate, and the flavor of their product truly represents the origins where the beans were grown.
As a result, the flavors of Askinosie chocolate are big, complex, and compelling. When we say “full-flavored” here at Zingerman’s, this is what we are talking about. It’s dimensional, very well-balanced, and it’s got a long finish that stays with you, which is what us chocolate-lovers really go for. Unlike most small chocolatiers, he’s actually going straight to the agricultural source and buying cacao beans from the growers. Shawn has spent significant time in South and Central America in order to meet every single one of the farmers from whom he’s getting cacao in order to get to know them and what they do.
“Because of that,” he explains, “I’m able to literally evaluate the beans before we get them delivered. I direct the exact fermentation and drying specifications of my beans and this is the greatest influence of taste that there is.”
There are additional factors that contribute to the quality and flavor of Askinosie chocolate. Shawn spends a significant amount of time teaching fermentation techniques to the growers, for example. Fermentation is what helps develop the flavor of the chocolate. Also, to focus his chocolate on the pure flavor of the cacao, Shawn does not use any of the lecithin or vanilla that are commonly used in most commercial chocolates. He does add a bit of cocoa butter, which he makes himself in Missouri. The superior chocolate that results from his endeavors is used pretty much exclusively at the Roadhouse in anything that requires chocolate, such as our chocolate pudding, mochas, and syrups, because it in turn makes our product taste better.
“‘Cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.”
While Shawn makes the world a better tasting place to live, he has also made a huge impact on making the world a more meaningful place to live. He makes his chocolate in a workplace that focuses on people, and uses a revolutionary business approach. Not only is he feeding us with really yummy chocolate, but he is feeding the souls of the people he works with, as well as his own with the purposeful work he does. His inspiring book Meaningful Work, A Quest To Do Great Business. Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul talks more about this calling and how to find it for yourself.
Through their model called A Stake in the Outcome™, Askinosie practices open-book management, and their employees are share-owners–just like Zingerman’s! According to the World Cocoa Foundation, an estimated 8o-90% of the world’s cocoa supply comes from 5 to 6 million smallholder cocoa farmers, and most of these farmers live in poverty. By profit-sharing with these famers in addition to what he pays for the beans, Shawn has addressed this poverty by paying an average of 48% more than the average of what they would normally get paid for their product.
They are also a Direct Trade company. Direct Trade approach cuts out the middleman and pays above Fair Trade market price to the farmers. In turn, Askinosie develops a deep and transparent relationship with the farmers, who are inspired to continue improving the harvesting process to meet quality standards–and we get to eat really good chocolate.
Askinosie involves their community in Missouri to have a greater impact as well. They started Chocolate University, where they teach local schools in Missouri through the lens of an artisan chocolate-maker about how we can solve global issues through business. Through their Product of Change program, they sell chocolate products to local schools in Missouri, then use 100% of the profits to feed malnourished children in the communities where their beans originate in other countries.
So while his chocolate was already delicious, because of the love Shawn puts into it at the source, we guarantee it tastes that much better. Stop by and feed your soul with our favorite bars of chocolate at the Roadhouse!